One of the great privileges of serving as a pastor is that I get to recruit. Not exactly like a coach recruits, but similar in many ways. Similar in the sense that one of my goals is to get you excited about life at First Baptist Church. More than that, I want to get you excited about living the Christian life! We’ve got the best thing going that’s going.
I think about Paul and his love for the Philippian church. He founded the church by simply preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus in the city of Philippi in Greece. When the apostle penned 1:3-11 – where my heart is drawn today – he was incarcerated in Rome (some kind of house arrest, I suppose), waiting to be tried before Caesar. Paul couldn’t visit the church, but he could receive reports on their progress, write letters to encourage them, and pray for them. He loved the people who were the church.
People still are the church.
During what many call his “second missionary journey,” the Apostle Paul and his colleagues had been divinely directed to “come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul and the others traveled to Philippi, where they proclaimed the gospel to Lydia, the Philippian jailor, and others. God blessed with saving faith – and a church was born. So the relationships between Paul and the Philippians were especially close.
When you think about Paul writing to the Corinthians or to the Galatians, he comes across like a watchdog! But with these Philippians he seems more like a lap dog. I’m glad the Bible lets us see this side of Paul. It’s important.
When Philippians was written, some 10-12 years had passed. But Paul’s love for the Philippian church had not waned at all. As a matter of fact, Paul said that he thanked the Lord every time he thought about them.
Are you grateful to have a church family? I mean truly grateful. Our relationships with our fellow recruits ought to be precious to us. We have a “partnership” in the gospel (3:5). That word “partnership” – maybe your English translation renders it “participation” – is the Greek word “koinonia.” It refers to intimate Christian fellowship. Beyond small talk and on to what matters most to us: sharing our rubber-meets-the-road real life, in Jesus Christ, with each another.
Notice that Paul found great joy in this thought, and in this reality. Do we?
I just received a handwritten note from a young man in our church named Mason. He thanked me for “sermons very detailed and informative” and for being “very inspiring.” I’m more honored by that communication from a 13-year-old than I would be honored by correspondence from a company president. As a matter of fact, someone needs to come into the office and scrape me off the ceiling! I’ll be able to live on the energy from Mason’s letter for at least a few weeks.
You know why?
Because Mason and I have a partnership in the gospel. And that’s what it’s all about.
Paul could have been super depressed, and we could not have blamed him. But he was not bummed out at all, because his friends were standing with him – even though he was on death row. That was a real partnership, because standing up for an unpopular person was risky business in those days. (I’m not sure it’s any easier now.)
You may have heard that love is blind. Not true. Real love charges in with its eyes wide open.
How did Paul know that he was writing to truly regenerate (saved) people? Because he saw their lives being changed – really changed – by Jesus Christ. And because he was certain that they belonged to Christ, Paul made a certain promise to them: God would finish in them the work that He began (3:6). And when God does the job, the end results are perfect. Hard to believe for the Philippians – or for any other church – but true nonetheless.
Paul was saying something like this: “What joins us together in genuine fellowship is gospel participation. We’re not in this by our own design, but by the common life in Jesus that we share.”
So Paul prayed for more and more fruit. For more and more love. “Righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
It just doesn’t get any better than that, pardner.